Red Shirts cause state of emergency in Thai capital

Friday, April 9, 2010

Red Shirts march through Bangkok on March 20, 2010.
Image: Takeaway.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency in Bangkok, Thailand and its surrounding areas today with the intention of combating anti-government protesters. The proclamation was made shortly after a group of Red Shirts, the common name for a political group in Thailand, stormed parliament. Senior officials were airlifted in a Black Hawk helicopter while other ministers were forced to jump over a wall at the back of the compound. The protesters left without violence after meeting opposition from members of parliament in the building.

The declaration of a state of emergency terminated military regulations and suspended certain civil liberties; one of these being the right to public gatherings of more than five people. This is the fourth state of emergency declared in Thailand because of political turmoil. Although the army has used violence in the past, they have been largely reluctant to attack or disperse large mobs. With a disabled military, one soldier carrying an M16 rifle was forced to flee from protesters; his weapon was stolen from him after being wrestled to the ground. Prime Minister Abhisit and army officials understand that a violent clash between authorities and anti-government protesters would worsen the political climate.

The military has been cautious about taking violent action against the people, but these feelings have not been reciprocated by Red Shirts. Two policemen were harmed by a grenade explosion at the central headquarters of the Abhisit's Democrat party in an altercation on Tuesday. These protesters view their prime minister as an "Oxford-trained economist" being controlled by an unelected cabal. The protesters have resolved that if another election went underway they would respect the results and call off further disturbances.